Why do so few foreigners become Austrian?

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AFP/The Local - [email protected]
Why do so few foreigners become Austrian?

Austria - particularly the capital Vienna - has a high proportion of foreign residents. Why do so few become citizens?


With one in five people living in Austria foreign-born, the central European country has one of the highest percentages of foreign residents. 

Foreign population in Austria

Austria has one of the highest proportions of foreign residents in the EU. 

Approximately 19 percent of the total population are foreign-born

In the cosmopolitan capital of Vienna, almost a third of 1.9 million residents are non-Austrian nationals, estimates the Vienna city council. Around 250,000 of these came from the EU and 312,000 from non-EU countries. 

In total, approximately 40 percent of Vienna residents are foreign-born - but only a quarter of those have procured Austrian citizenship. 

How difficult is it to become an Austrian citizen?

Becoming a citizen in Austria is difficult. According to German news site Deutsche Welle "in the EU, Austria has the toughest route to citizenship". 

The conditions for becoming an Austrian citizen have turned into a veritable obstacle course in recent decades, particularly under governments containing the anti-immigration far-right Freedom Party (FPOe), reports AFP. 

The income requirements alone would disqualify 60 percent of blue-collar female Austrian workers if they had to apply, reports AFP.

The fees to have one's application considered run to thousands of euros. A good level of German is required as well as at least ten years' residence.

In many cases, foreigners would be required to renounce their existing citizenship. 

Additionally, in some cases foreigners will have to engage in volunteer work to gain citizenship. 

Naturalisation takes a minimum of ten years in most cases.

And once living in Austria, foreigners hoping to become Austrian citizens will also be restricted for how long they will be allowed to leave the country during that first ten-year period - unless they want the clock to start over again. 

Pursuant to naturalisation rules, foreigners will need to keep 'uninterrupted legal residence' in Austria for ten years. 

Unlike the United States, Canada and a host of Central and South American countries, birth does not confer citizenship, because being born in Austria makes no difference at all, no matter how long one's family may have been settled in the country.


Will things change in the future? 

The SPOe, along with the Greens and the liberal NEOS party, have said they would be in favour of loosening the requirements. 

But the conservative People's Party (OeVP), the senior partner in the current governing coalition, is against this.

"Austrian citizenship is a precious asset," OeVP Interior Minister Karl Nehammer said in a statement last year.

He said the current system promotes integration.


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